BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Stalin's Scripts: Nation Building and Georgian History in Soviet Literature and Film

Fri8  Apr03:00pm(20 mins)
Umney Lounge


Svetlana Yefimenko


In 1942, the Soviet writer Anna Antonovskaia (1885-1967), became the first woman to receive the Stalin Prize in literature for her six-volume work, The Great Mouravi: A Novel Epic in Six Volumes. The novel was immensely popular in the USSR during and immediately after WWII; it was adapted as film produced by Mikheil Chiaureli (1894-1974) in 1942, and became the only Soviet film to be awarded two Stalin prizes. The screenplay received significant input from Stalin regarding its representation of Georgian history, culture, and linguistic expressions; he noted that the film may be the greatest example of Soviet cinematography – provided Antonovskaia’s literary depiction of Saakadze’s victory is transformed into defeat in the film to reflect ‘true’ history. 

This paper examines how both Antonovskaia's novel and Chiaureli's film facilitated nation-building in Stalinist Russia by reconstructing Georgian collective memory during WWII. Considering Stalin’s efforts to control and ‘correct’ Antonovskaia’s narrative by means of film can shed new light on how the complex relationship between Sovietization and Russification informed the reconstruction of Georgian collective memory. This will demonstrate how, and for what ideological purposes, Georgian historical narrative was adapted to literature and film during the Stalinist era, and serve as a case study of the role of historical discourses in Soviet nation building more generally.